Faye Watson, Public Engagement Manager (Episode 8) | Faye talks about rising through the ranks and making engagement better for everyone
“In professional services, it’s the job that is graded, it’s not the person, whereas in research it’s the person. So we can go off and get, like I did, £170,000 worth of funding and it means nothing because my job did not dictate that I had to do that.”
Rising through the ranks
This week’s podcast guest is Faye Watson, a rising star in the engagement world. Faye has recently joined at the College of Medical and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh as their Public Engagement with Research Manager.
Faye is a relative newcomer to the public engagement (PE) world. She quit a PhD in 2019 after struggling with the research culture and finding solace in running events and engagement activities. After a last-minute interview on a train to Glasgow she landed her first post-PhD job as a part-time Public Engagement Assistant at the UCL Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging. Next she relocated to Glasgow, becoming Public Engagement Coordinator at the MRC Centre for Virus Research during the COVID pandemic which was obviously a busy time for anyone working in communicating virology. Running with the opportunity she coordinated engagement around not just COVID, but also HIV and tick-borne diseases.
“But I think if I look back on where I am now and the level of influence I’m having in this role and the trust that people really senior in the sector are putting in me, I have to remember that I did only start as a public engagement assistant part time in November 2019. So in three years I’ve gone from that to public engagement manager for a whole college, and that is something I have to be really proud of.”
Making engagement better
Although relatively new to her current role, a key focus will be supporting 20 public engagement and communications professionals, bringing them together to share expertise. This is something that will build on Faye’s strengths – one thing that is very apparent from talking to her is that she is a connector and that building relationships is a huge strength. She also cares passionately about making things better.
“For anyone from a marginalized background or has any sort of protected characteristic, this is just so much harder for all of them. They’re not going to come into the sector if we’ve got all this precarity, because these people have been brought up on precarity so they need structure and security.”
We talk about improving career prospects for public engagement professionals, giving more power to communities, and involving more creative practitioners in research. It’s no wonder that she has just been voted as Chair for ScotPEN, and also helps coordinate the Next Steps in Public Engagement programme. Whatever the future holds for public engagement, I’m quite sure that Faye will be involved!
Find out more
- You can connect with Faye on LinkedIn and Twitter
- Read about Faye’s projects at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research
- ScotPEN the network Faye has just been elected chair of
- Get involved with Next Steps in Public Engagement
- Cassie Hugill, University College London
- Mike Norman, Babraham Institute
- Liz Danner, Imperial College London
- Dee Davison, Edinburgh
- Past podcast guest Kirsty Ross, St Andrews and Strathclyde
How was it for you…?
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